Sultan Al Nuaimi has high hopes as he aims to become the first Emirati boxer to win a medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
A late starter in the sport, the two-time national champion believes he’s peaking at the right time as he seeks to fulfil his dream of claiming a podium spot in the 52kg category at the continental tournament.
Al Nuaimi, 30, returned from a 10-month lay-off at the inaugural Rising Stars Arabia event at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, where he out-pointed the experienced Tanzanian Jemsi Kibazange to extend his perfect professional record to 10-0.
“That contest has given me the platform to go with confidence to the Asian Games,” the Emirati policeman told The National.
Al Nuaimi was out for several months recovering from surgery on a fractured thumb – sustained in a bout against India's Sohaib Haque in November 2022 – and then spent six months carrying out national service.
This will be his second attempt at the Asian Games having lost in the first round in Jakarta in 2018. He feels he is a much stronger and more experienced fighter these days, better equipped at challenging for the top-three finish that would earn him qualification for next year's Paris Olympics.
“I came back after 10 months and think I did pretty well to go the full distance and win against Jemsi, who had featured in 26 pro fights with 18 wins,” he said.
“I’m ready for another crack at the Asian Games. The Rising Stars Arabia event came at the right time and since then I have just focused on the Asian Games. This is probably my best chance to reach the medal round and win a ticket to Paris.”
Al Nuaimi used to be obsessed with gaming, but his life changed when he first tried his hands at boxing at the age of 24.
“I have done a few sports for recreation, but I was a lazy person addicted to gaming," he said. "One of my friends introduced me to boxing and that was the turning point of my life.
“I had been playing the sport on video games and had a fair idea of boxing but I fell in love with the sport after trying it for the first time. I picked up the sport quickly and after seeing my talent and passion I was noticed by Ahmed Seddiqi, my current manager and the first Emirati promoter and person in the UAE to establish a specialised boxing gym.
“A lot of credit goes to him for my development and progress in the sport. The Police Department that I’m attached to has also been very supportive and provided me with the time for my training. I hope I can bring home a medal for all of them and my country.”
As a two-time national champion Al Nuaimi was selected for the Asian Games in Jakarta five years ago.
“My first time at the Asian Games was a great experience and now I’m back as a better athlete and a more experienced boxer,” he said.
“I have put in hard work over the last five years. It’s been a remarkable journey for me since I went full-time in the sport. I have remained undefeated in 10 pro contests. I feel that’s a remarkable record for an Emirati boxer.”
Joining Sultan in Hangzhou are Nawaf Ali Al Zahmi (57kg), Hussain Al Shammar (70kg) and Mohammed Saeed Al Hefetti (90kg).
“We arrived at the Games Village 10 days before the opening ceremony and have been training and preparing for the competition,” Al Nuaimi added.
“Obviously the objective is for all four of us to reach the medal rounds. Now it’s about waiting for the moment. At the boxing training arena at the village, we see the other boxers train and strike up conversations with some of them.
“It’s a nice feeling and a nice atmosphere. We are enjoying it. For me, the focus is on the opening day of the competition and my opening fight. It’s important for all of us to clear the first hurdle.”
The boxing section at the Asian Games runs from September 24 to 30. The Games run from September 23 to October 8.